Connor McDavid is the undisputed leader and backbone of the Edmonton Oilers. It’s impossible to talk about the success of the team without talking about the success of their best player.
Now that the league has agreed on a playoff format (although there are more than a few wrinkles to iron out), Oilers fans will get to see their captain in the postseason for the first time since the 2016-17 season when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in a Best-of-5 series.
When the season was paused, McDavid was once again near the top of every offensive category. His 0.98 assists-per-game was the highest in the league. If he hadn’t missed some time with an injury, McDavid would most likely have already clinched his fourth straight 100-point season. But with the NHL announcing that they will forgo the rest of the regular season, his total comes in just below that with 97 points in 64 games. Teammate (and official Art Ross winner) Leon Draisaitl was the only player in the league to score more points than McDavid with 110.
Since being chosen with the first overall pick by the Oilers in 2015, McDavid has established himself as not only the best player on the Oilers, but the entire league (just ask the players.) He was quickly signed to an 8-year, $12.5 million deal (or 15.3% of the salary cap) in 2017 that runs until the end of the 2025-26 season, ensuring the Oilers hold on to their captain for the vast majority of his prime.
McDavid’s game has been analyzed to shreds, but in the end, it always comes down to one thing; Speed. Everyone knows that the 22-year-old can slice through defenses like the Samurai Plus. His end-to-end rushes are so routine at this point I’m actually worried we might become desensitized to how great they actually are. We all saw exactly how devastating it can be when he turned Toronto’s Morgan Reilly, one of the league’s better defenders, inside out with was essentially just a crossover. But the way he can use such a simple move, and turn it into a goal-of-the-year candidate shows how truly dangerous he is.
The fact that McDavid can rip through an entire five-man unit all on his own immediately puts teams on their heels. Not only that, but his possession numbers are remarkable as well. His career Corsi for % in all situations is 56.7%. Above 50% means a team controls the puck more with a player on the ice, and this season he was clocking in just above that with a 56.8%. As well, his PDO (Shooting % + Save %) this season was the highest of his career with 103.4. Just for reference, an ideal PDO is 100.
It’s tough to be critical of McDavid, because, well, he does so many things nearly perfectly. But if we really take a look, McDavid’s biggest drawback (besides his inability to play all 60 minutes a night) is the defensive side to his game. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski wrote an article in April looking at how McDavid’s defensive stats actually rank near the bottom of the league. He ranks 195th in even-strength defense goals above average metric from 2017-18 to 2019-20 with a minus-0.312 per 60 minutes. He’s also third in goals-against-per-60-minutes with 3.28.
While this is true, you have to note that McDavid is the most dynamic scorer in the league, and he’s still only 23-years-old. His goals-for-per-60-minutes ranks fifth in the league with 3.56. We’ve seen how superstars like Sidney Crosby have evolved over time and added defensive prowess to their game, so there’s no reason to think McDavid couldn’t get to that point. But for now, the Oilers need him to produce offense.
McDavid and the Oilers know that these playoffs are the best chance they’ve had in the McDavid era so far to make a deep run. The captain is healthy, his teammate is firing on all cylinders, and if the depth can even just be average, then the Oilers can set themselves up nicely.
While we wait for the playoffs to start, here’s a little refresher (not that you needed it) of how remarkable Connor McDavid really is.